In the Circle of Time, by Margaret J. Anderson, for Timeslip Tuesday

Margaret Anderson is perhaps best known for Searching for Shona, but she also wrote several time travel books that many people remember fondly. Back in 2014, I talked about one of these, In the Keep of Time, and I enjoyed it enough that I mentioned I wanted to seek out her other books....but only now in 2020 did I actually check to see if the library had any of them.  Happily, the Rhode Island library system is not, in general, known of its vigorous weeding, and so In the Circle of Time (1979) came home with me last month.  It's not a direct sequel to Keep of Time, but is a companion to it, beginning a few years after it, with two different main characters.

Robert lives on a lonely Scottish farm with a father who has no time for his interest in art, and who wants him to work harder on the farm, despite his having a weak leg from polio.  Jennifer's an American girl whose family has just moved to the area.  They'd seen each other at school, but it's not until they both decide to visit the stone circle out on the moors on the same morning that they start to really know each other.  When you share an experience of mist coming down and time starting to go off kilter, it brings you together....

The first time they don't actually travel in time, though Jennifer does see people who aren't there in our time.  They pay a second visit to the stones, though, not because they want the strange experience to happen again, but to test it, to see if it was real.

It was, and this time they are transported to the year 2179. The stones are still there, and there's a boy about their age who is willing to befriend them.  But the stones are much closer to the ocean than they were back in the 1970s.   Sea level rise and global warming caused by fossil fuels has caused mass extinctions, and human migrations. (so prescient of Anderson to predict this; I remember in 1977 reading a newspaper article about the coming ice age....).  This part of Scotland is now home to a community whose ancestors came from India, and they are living in low tech harmony, eschewing violence.  Sadly, this isn't true for another group, who still cling to technology, using slave labor to mine the coal they need.  These "Barbaric Ones" are, on the day Robert and Jennifer arrive from the past, in the middle of a mass kidnapping of their new friend's peaceful people.

Robert and Jennifer understandably don't want to be kidnapped, and don't understand why these people aren't fighting back.  They do manage to thwart the Barbaric Ones for long enough that Robert and Jennifer can see what their peaceful, idyllic life is like--full of crafts, gardens, and communal child rearing, with visits to the library of the abandoned, collapsing city nearby at intervals.  But though Robert almost prefers it to his own harsher life, they must return to their own time....and here their story overlaps a smidge with the four kids from Keep of Time.

I really really liked the introductory part of the story, introducing the kids and the circle of stones and setting everything up beautifully and atmospherically!  And in general, Anderson is an excellent describer.  I had trouble, though, with the future peaceful society because being jaded and cynical it seemed to me more like a hippie commune (sans pot) and less like a believable future community.  It gave a fantasy feel to the story, that was at odds with the tangible bits of the past, like the abandoned robots in the old city.  And the emphasis on the power of love and good will made me twitchy.

Basically I'd have loved it if I'd read it the year it came out...I was 11.  And quite possibly my library (Arlington VA Central Library) had it, though maybe not, because it seems like the sort of thing I'd have found appealing, and I browsed and browsed those shelves lots.

Still, it was a fast and enjoyable read!  I have just now requested another of her time travel books, The Ghost Inside the Monitor....Several of her books, including Keep and Circle, are available as ebooks, for those with more ruthless libraries.  And looking at her website, I found myself intrigued by her memoir, From a Place Far Away  (Lychgate Press, June, 2017) covering her Scottish childhood before and during World War II.

1 comment:

  1. I sent her an email once, telling her how much I loved Searching for Shona, and she very graciously responded! I'd read her memoir :)


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